U.N. rights investigator calls for tough sanctions on Myanmar

FILE PHOTO: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar called on Thursday for wide-ranging punitive sanctions against the military government, which he said had murdered, beaten and unlawfully arrested peaceful protesters since a Feb. 1 coup.

Thomas Andrews urged the U.N. Security Council - which meets on Myanmar on Friday - to impose a global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions on the junta.

It should also refer alleged atrocities, which he said may amount to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

“Every day the military junta in Myanmar unleashes more brutality on peaceful protesters who are standing up for justice, human rights and democracy, defending their nation against this illegal military coup,” Andrews said.

He said 23 people had been reported killed by the authorities as of March 1, a toll that escalated dramatically in a single day on Wednesday this week, when 38 people were reported killed by police firing on crowds.

U.N. member states should impose sanctions on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, now controlled by the military and its largest source of revenue, he said in a report.

States should deny recognition of the junta as the legitimate government and freeze all overseas accounts of state entities to ensure public funds are not diverted, he added.

Earlier on Thursday, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Myanmar's security forces to halt their "vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters" and urged the military to release people unlawfully detained since the coup.

Bachelet said that more than 1,700 people had been arbitrarily detained and that arrests were escalating. They included 29 journalists arrested in recent days, some charged with incitement to opposition or attending an unlawful assembly.

"Myanmar's military must stop murdering and jailing protesters," she said.

Soldiers and police are reported to be conducting door-to-door searches and detaining people, some of whom disappear into custody without their family being told about their whereabouts, a practice known as enforced disappearance, she said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson, Angus MacSwan and Peter Graff)

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